Javascript is not enabled.

Javascript must be enabled to use this site. Please enable Javascript in your browser and try again.

Skip to content
Content starts here
Leaving Website

You are now leaving and going to a website that is not operated by AARP. A different privacy policy and terms of service will apply.

Stand Up Straight: How to Improve Your Posture

How to assess — and fix — your posture so you look taller and leaner, and avoid nagging pain

spinner image woman stretching using a band holding it behind her back with her right hand above her head and her left hand behind her thighs
Justin Steele

Good posture is an important part of long-term health, according to the National Institutes of Health. Slouching and slumping over can make your spine more fragile and prone to injury. Poor posture can also cause neck, shoulder and back pain. Here’s how to achieve perfect posture that would make your mother proud.

Part One

Stand so that your left side is adjacent to a full-length mirror. Imagine there is a straight line that runs down the side of your body from your ears through your shoulders, hips, knees and ankles. Turn your head slightly to see your reflection, or ask a partner to assess you. Now ask:

spinner image Image Alt Attribute

AARP Membership— $12 for your first year when you sign up for Automatic Renewal

Get instant access to members-only products and hundreds of discounts, a free second membership, and a subscription to AARP the Magazine.

Join Now

Where are my ears?

They should be directly over your shoulders, not out in front. To bring your ears back: Lift the crown of your head toward the ceiling. Keep your eyes forward, jaw parallel to the floor. Pull your shoulder blades back, as though trying to touch them together.

Where are my hips?

Belly fat and too much sitting cause our hips to tilt forward. Tighten your stomach muscles; push your hips forward so the points of your hip bones are directly below your shoulders.

Where are my ankles?

When your head and belly are out in front and your hips are behind, your ankles will often wind up somewhere in the middle. Your ankle bones should be directly below your hip bones, for proper balance.

Part Two

Holding your newly aligned posture, turn to face the mirror. Ask yourself:

Where are my shoulders?

If one is higher than the other, roll your shoulders forward and back to loosen them. If one or both shoulders are forward, you may have tight chest muscles, which can cause you to hunch forward. To loosen up, clasp your hands behind you, interlocking your fingers, palms together. Lift your hands up and backward as far as you can. Hold for 10 seconds, then return to the starting position.

spinner image diagrams of two posture checks being performed in a mirror
Looking in the mirror can help you determine if your shoulders are level.
Courtesy Brown Bird Design

Where are my feet?

They should be shoulder-width apart and even with each other, toes facing forward. Often when our head and belly are out in front, we wind up walking (or waddling) with a wider stance. Shuffle your feet until they’re even with each other and no farther apart than shoulder width. Take a moment to feel how you’re balanced. Your weight should be distributed equally on both feet.

Where are my knees?

Tightness in the back can pull the knees out of alignment. Try this easy stretch: Stand with your big toes touching and your heels slightly apart. Fold forward at the hips, curl your chin to your chest, and let your arms dangle toward the floor.

Discover AARP Members Only Access

Join AARP to Continue

Already a Member?